Nature in the quarry: Fire salamander and water frogs call Swiss Bärlocher AG their home

Fire salamander. Photo: Daria-bs / Wikimedia Commons

The most important part of flora and fauna protection is securing the outskirts of the factory grounds to allow for diversity and suitable living conditions

Time and again we read reports of quarries destroying natural habitats and environments of wild animals and rare plants. But on the contrary – we will report informally on several cases, in which endangered flora and fauna had made an ACTIVE quarry their new home.

The first step in preservation and conservation of flora and fauna in quarries is: look … and do nothing.

This holds true for all outskirt areas which are usually not needed for manufacturing. Avoiding disturbance is usually sufficient to invite guests to stay permanently.

So, for wildlife preservation, it is important to educate quarry personnel early.

Hans Jakob Bärlocher, owner of the company which carries his name and is located near Lake Constance did just that. He specifically instructed his people to leave puddles, ponds and streams at the far ends of his Kreienwald quarry in St-Gallen’s Staad region untouched as far as possible and lo! The rare and protected Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) promptly moved in to stay.

Supporting walls offer abundant living space for small animals and plants.

A few years ago, Bärlocher had his quarry ecologically certified as the first Swiss Production Site. Part of the certification process involved taking tally of preservation areas and developing recommendations to further natural habitat.

Note that even after the ecology experts left, Rohrschacher Sandstone is still being quarried in the central area.

But there are many areas all around which are can easily accommodate small animals.

Animals and plants use spaces in quarries otherwise not needed for production.Animals and plants use spaces in quarries otherwise not needed for production.

Small animals don’t usually require large nature reserves. They are quite satisfied with small secluded areas to hide and raise their young. A belt around the home and nesting area is needed where they can hunt and forage for food. In the case of the Bärlocher-Quarry these are the areas where waste material has been dumped.

The puddles and pools are now home to the water frog (Pelophylax kl. Esculentus). For this creature the pools must be open to sunlight.

Beat Haller ecological consultant of the Swiss Gravel and Concrete Trade Organization (Fachverband der Schweizerischen Kies- und Betonindustrie, FSKB) enumerates measures which require little more than the above-mentioned laissez-faire:
∗ Leave blocks, rock and boulders lie,
∗ pile up gravel and rock,
∗ collect runoff in moats and ponds (not drainage pipes),
∗ preserve rock spurs,
∗ preserve or plant hedges,
∗ leave dead wood untouched.

A quarry is an ideal biotope because it offers enormous diversity for animals rarely found anymore in an industrial environment. „A quarry is dry only at first glance. There are dry zones, semi-dry areas and wetlands all within close proximity“, says Beat Haller.

Hans Jakob Bärlocher with his team in the Kreienwald quarry, Staad (Sankt Gallen).

Bärlocher is quick to point out that fire salamanders present practically no restrictions for production. „Our staff takes care to steer clear of the outskirt areas whenever possible. The salamanders are well camouflaged, you hardly ever see them“ he adds.

Fire salamanders are nocturnal animals and lay their eggs in the water. After that they stay nearby, provided there is enough moisture to keep their amphibious epidermis wet at all times.

Bärlocher is a bear of a man by stature who has integrated the public in his crusade: he offers regular visits to the quarry for schools where the grade-school children can discover new worlds. Big people can also participate actively, e.g. by piling stone or learning to build a drywall or pulling up invasive weeds.

Certification has a lifespan of 5 years. During this time, the company is authorized to use the emblem for advertising purposes. Will Bärlocher submit to the rigors of certification again next year?

„Naturally“, he says.

Bärlocher AG (German)

Photos: Bärlocher

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(25.05.2018, 05.25.2018)